Author: Charley Hickey is a practicing yoga therapist and senior yoga teacher who runs group and private yoga classes in Applecross & Fremantle, Perth. She also runs specialised yoga workshops for yoga students & yoga teachers.
We’ve been practicing salute to the sun or surya namaskar in class this week. It’s a great sequence but can be tough for beginners, injured or ageing bodies, even the modified versions! So don’t feel bad it challenged you or you couldn’t get through it. Although many classical styles of yoga teach it as a warm-up, I personally feel that it is something that needs to be warmed into which is what we usually do before attempting it in a group class. Once you are familiar with it, it becomes easier (I promise!). Some people are able to jump straight into the sequence without any problems and I’m not saying it’s wrong to do that, just not appropriate for everyone and not how I personally like to teach it. Perhaps it is because I have such a passion for teaching yoga to bodies that are a bit more on the creaky side 🙂 You can read more below about the sequence and practicing it or here is a printable copy Salute to the Sun Handout if you prefer.
Salute to the Sun – Surya Namaskar
Whether you regularly practice yoga or not, you can enjoy the health benefits of Surya Namaskar – salute to the sun. Performed correctly, it is a completely safe set of yoga poses that will not cause strain or injury (ask your teacher for help beforehand if unsure).
You will experience health benefits by practicing just once daily, but you can also practice the series of poses as often as you like whenever you have time, make it realistic and perhaps start with one round and gradually build up to several once you feel comfortable to do so. One round is once on each side, so remember to swap legs.
When practiced in the morning, Surya Namaskar relieves stiffness, energizes the body and refreshes the mind. During the day, it is rejuvenating, and at night, Surya Namaskar can help you relax and get a good night’s sleep.
There are numerous variations of the sequence from different yoga traditions and for differing abilities. The sequence below is a slightly modified version which should be suitable for most abilities including beginners. If you have any concerns about your ability or if you’d like a modified version that is easier or more challenging, ask your instructor for guidance.
- Provides all of the key health benefits of yoga in a very succinct package
- Workout for the muscles
- Benefits the joints, ligaments & skeletal system
- Improves posture, flexibility & balance
- Stimulates & conditions bodily systems including digestive, nervous, lymphatic and respiratory systems.
- Benefits endocrine system including thyroid, parathyroid, pituitary, adrenal & reproductive glands
- Relaxing and rejuvenating for mind and body
- Aids concentration and focus
- Excellent for managing stress and alleviating depression
In brackets is a suggested breathing sequence if you wish to follow it but as long as you are breathing mindfully that is the main thing. Following the picture, start at the top of the circle.
- Tadasana/mountain pose. Begin by standing comfortably in a grounded position with the knees unlocked.
- Prayer pose (Namaste) – breathe mindfully for a few breaths until you feel ready to continue
- Reach the arms up toward the ceiling (IN)
- Forward bend from the hips, drop the head down toward the knees and hands towards or touching the floor. Keep knees bent if needed, no need to push here. (OUT)
- Low lunge right foot back with back knee down and hands toward or on the floor. (IN)
- All fours position briefly then lower hips toward floor elbows pointing backward (OUT)
- Low Cobra – pushing through the hands to lift the head and chest (IN)
- Downward Facing Dog – push through the hands, lift buttocks toward ceiling and allow heels to drop down towards the floor (OUT)
- Low lunge (as #5) right foot forward with back knee down and hands toward or on the floor. (IN)
- Forward bend (as #4) from the hips, drop the head down toward the knees and hands towards or touching the floor. (OUT)
- Roll back up to standing Reach the arms up (as #3) toward the ceiling (IN)
- Tadasana/mountain pose (as #1)